Skip to content

'We have done enough in Brentwood for density': Burnaby to lobby B.C. for exception to new housing rules

Burnaby city council has unanimously supported the 'Save Brentwood Park' petition which seeks to exempt the neighbourhood from provincial rules around building near local SkyTrain stations.
Residents of Brentwood Park in Burnaby have successfully petitioned the city to lobby the province for an exemption to new transit-oriented housing rules.

A group of Brentwood residents descended on Burnaby City Hall Monday to protest their inclusion in new provincial housing rules that could see 12-storey apartments built in their neighbourhood.

Their petition was successful, as city council unanimously agreed to lobby the province to “Save Brentwood Park” by exempting it from the province’s new transit-oriented development area.

The 298 petitioners said the designation of the Brentwood Town Centre SkyTrain “transit-oriented area” has been “indiscriminately superimposed over 75 per cent of (their) neighbourhood.”

The legislation will require cities to allow buildings with minimum heights of eight to 20 storeys within certain distances around transit hubs like SkyTrain stations.

The province intends to fast-track development and remove “restrictive zoning bylaws” the province says have slowed down building much needed housing.

A map of the Brentwood Town Centre transit-oriented development area in Burnaby. By Province of B.C.

Burnaby Citizens Association Coun. Sav Dhaliwal formally motioned for staff to study measures to allow Brentwood Park to be exempted from the province’s transit-oriented area designation, and for the mayor to write to provincial Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon to support the Save Brentwood Park petition.

His motion was unanimously supported by all six NDP-aligned Burnaby Citizens Association councillors, along with independent Mayor Mike Hurley, Green Party Coun. Joe Keithley, and OneBurnaby Coun. Richard Lee.

Dhaliwal said the City of Burnaby has done “an excellent job” building in its four town centre quadrants (Brentwood, Metrotown, Lougheed and Edmonds) over the last 15 years.

Burnaby is widely known for its “Grand Bargain” approach to development, which historically sought to concentrate new development in the four town centres and “protect” single-family neighbourhoods from “pressures to accommodate new growth,” according to staff reports from the 2010s.

The city had just begun to adapt this philosophy to include growth in “urban villages” when the province introduced the new legislation.

But Dhaliwal said there is now a “fatigue in terms of how much one area can take in terms of additional density that’s now going to be imposed by the bills that the province has brought.”

He added the single-family areas can densify through B.C.’s new small-scale multi-unit legislation that will allow up to six homes on previously single-family lots.

“We certainly have to try our best to convince the province that the existing density in Brentwood is already meeting our needs,” Dhaliwal said.

Mayor Hurley agreed, saying Brentwood residents “have done more than enough” when it comes to supporting new development, which is why he doesn’t support what he called the provincial government’s “overstep.”

“And make no mistake, this whole Bill 47, and the other bills that they’ve brought out, is a great overreach by the provincial government into the work that should be done and should be planned by municipalities and the residents working together.”

The mayor has previously projected Brentwood town centre at build-out will be home to about 60,000 residents.

The mayor plans to meet with the community further to discuss options, but he repeatedly reminded council and the public that the city currently does not have discretion to vary or exempt neighbourhoods from the provincial legislation.

“We have done enough in Brentwood for density, and this reaching further into your area is not needed,” Hurley said to Brentwood Park residents.

BCA Coun. Pietro Calendino, who has been on council since 2002, said when the Brentwood town centre plan was drawn up, the city “never envisioned to go into the residential area,” which he called a “beautiful, established neighbourhood.”

The Greens’ Keithley said he strongly supported Dhaliwal’s motion.

“What the province has done doesn’t make any sense,” Keithley said. “The Brentwood area has too much density already; it does not need anymore. So we have to find a way to help this neighbourhood out. … We’ve got to find a way to get this done and stop these huge buildings being built there.”

The Burnaby NOW has asked the province if it will consider exempting Brentwood Park from the transit-oriented development area but did not receive a response by publication deadline.